Rebels are healthier after off week

By By Will Bardwell / staff writer
Nov. 18, 2003
OXFORD A banged-up offensive line is as close to ready as it will ever be for Ole Miss after a conveniently scheduled off week.
Following the Rebels' 24-20 win over Auburn on Nov. 8, Ole Miss enjoyed a bye week and was able to heal a number of injuries suffered by offensive linemen.
That is good news for the No. 15 Rebels, 8-2 overall and 6-0 in the Southeastern Conference, as they prepare to host LSU on Saturday. The Tigers, ranked No. 3 nationally, are the highest-ranked team to visit Oxford since No. 1 Florida pounded Ole Miss 38-14 in 1994.
LSU is 9-1 overall and 5-1 in SEC play, and brings one of the nation's top defenses into the game. The Tigers defense has allowed just 19 first-half points all year, and has held seven of its 10 opponents scoreless in the first two quarters. LSU is also the SEC leader in scoring defense, allowing less than nine points a game.
The game will also feature two of the SEC's top quarterbacks. Ole Miss senior Eli Manning leads the conference with 2,881 passing yards and 23 touchdowns, but LSU quarterback Matt Mauck is the league's pass efficiency leader and completion percentage leader.
Manning, who is 1-1 against LSU as a starter, spent the off week watching film on the Tigers and got to watch their game on Saturday at Alabama a game in which the Bayou Bengals dominated in a 27-3 win.
While the Tigers and Rebels share one of the SEC's fiercest rivalries, Saturday's game carries implications far more important than simple bragging rights. An Ole Miss win would bring the Rebels their first SEC West title, while a victory by LSU would give the Tigers the inside track to an appearance in the conference championship game.
Saturday's game will be the first between Ole Miss and LSU since 1970 in which both schools have been nationally ranked. The last time that happened was 1970, when No. 8 LSU beat the 16th-ranked Rebels 61-17 in Baton Rouge.